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Geography played a part in Bahamian history. In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the New World on the island of San Salvador in the eastern Bahamas. After observing the shallow sea around the islands, he said "baja mar" (low water or sea), and effectively named the area The Bahamas, or The Islands of the Shallow Sea.
Since it was located close to Florida and well-travelled shipping channels, the Islands of the Bahamas caught the attention of explorers, settlers, invaders and traders. These people shaped the colourful history of The Bahamas and made the country what it is today.
The Lucayan Era / Christopher Columbus
Recent archaeological digs indicate people lived in the Islands of the Bahamas as early as 300 to 400 AD. These people probably came from Cuba and relied on the ocean for their food. In the 10th century, Lucayan Indians - a subgroup of the Arawaks - settled in the Islands of the Bahamas. The Lucayans had left the Lesser Antilles to avoid their enemies, the Carib Indians, who were known to be fierce warriors and cannibals. A peaceful group, the Lucayans were farmers who lived in thatch huts, used stone tools and made their own pottery. They were politically, socially and religiously advanced. When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 on San Salvador (some historians think he landed on Cat Island), there were about 40,000 Lucayans living in the Islands of the Bahamas. Taking advantage of the people's gentle nature, he enslaved them three years later and shipped them off to Hispaniola to work in his mines. Slavery, disease and other hardships wiped out the entire tribe within 25 years of Columbus' arrival.
The First Settlement
In 1648, a group of dissident English Puritans (known as the "Eleutheran Adventurers") arrived here in their quest for religious freedom. Although the adventurers gave the island its name, the island didn't give much back, and the settlers experienced food shortages, a lack of proper supplies and internal strife that split the group into separate communities along Governor's Harbour and Preacher's Cave in Eleuthera. Seeking peace, the Eleutheran's leader, Captain William Sayles, set sail for the American colonies and succeeded in obtaining survival supplies from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and then returned to the struggling outpost. To better guard against marauding Spanish troops in the area, another settlement was then established on the nearby - and more easily defended - Harbour Island.
The Age of Piracy
Piracy was at its height from the late 1600s to the early 1700s. the Islands of the Bahamas was a popular "stopping off" point for many of the world's most infamous pirates. Explore this section for details
The Loyalists - Settlement After 1776
More than a century later, another major influx of newcomers arrived in Eleuthera when American colonists still loyal to the British flag left the newly independent nation, many bringing with them the slaves they held in America. These Loyalists also brought their Colonial building skills, as well as their agricultural and shipbuilding expertise, all of which became major influences in Eleutheran life. To solidify their independence, in 1783, the former Loyalists, assisted by the South Carolina militia, took up arms and forced the retreat of Spanish forces from the entire region - even as far away as Nassau and Bermuda - without a shot being fired.
Cival War and Prohibition
From 1861 until 1865, the boom and bust economy of the Islands of the Bahamas benefited greatly from the U.S. Civil War. Great Britain's textile industry depended on Southern cotton, so it favoured the Confederacy. However, British ships could not reach Southern ports because the Union blockaded them. Thus, blockade runners in sleek, fast boats would travel the 560 miles from Charleston to Nassau with loads of cotton. Here, they would meet up with British vessels and would trade their cotton for goods the British carried. Returning to Charleston, the blockade runners would sell their shipments for huge profits. The end of the Civil War meant the end of prosperity for the Islands of the Bahamas until 1919. When the United States passed the 14th Amendment prohibiting alcohol, smuggling returned to the islands. Scotch whisky was an important British export for the Islands of the Bahamas, so the colonial government greatly expanded Prince George Wharf in Nassau to accommodate the huge flow of alcohol. However, Prohibition ended in 1934 and with it the enormous revenues that poured into the country. The end of Prohibition, combined with the collapse of the profitable sponge harvesting industry a few years later, was economically devastating to the Islands of the Bahamas.
Tourism and Independence
The tourism industry began in the mid-19th century with government support for the construction of hotels and subsidised steamship service. Tourism once again blossomed in the 1920s when Prohibition brought well-to-do American tourists to the islands. The influx of visitors increased the demand for food, lodging and other items. Consequently, the banking industry boomed as the Islands of the Bahamas built new hotels, warehouses, bars, distilleries and wharves. After the repeal of Prohibition, the Islands of the Bahamas went into an economic slump that lasted until the 1940s and World War II, when it served as an air and sea way-station in the Atlantic. Construction of the base brought jobs to many people. Then in 1961, when Cuba (with its glitzy casinos and beach resorts) was closed to American tourists, the Islands of the Bahamas' good fortune began. Capitalizing on its close proximity to the United States, the government of the Islands of the Bahamas set out to increase the number of people who visited it each year. It dredged Nassau's harbour so it could accommodate up to six cruise ships at a time and it built a bridge connecting Nassau to Paradise Island. In 1964, Great Britain granted the Islands of the Bahamas limited self-government, and in 1969 the colony of The Bahamas became a Commonwealth. It then legally became a nation on July 10, 1973, which is celebrated today as Bahamian Independence Day.
Nothing can prepare you for the thrill of an exalted encounter with dolphins on their own terms and on their own turf. Several operators offer swim-with-wild-dolphins trips that are guaranteed to leave you filled with boundless joy.
ABACO NATIONAL PARK
Few spots are as dramatic and serene as the lonesome headland at Hole-in-the-Wall, highlight of this forested park-a last refuge for the Bahama parrot. The hiking is splendid. It's a true escapists' dream for those who don't mind rustic accommodations.
ABACOS' LOYALIST VILLAGES
the fistful of bicentenary Loyalist villages on Elbow, Man O' War, and Green Turtle cays exude irresistable charm. Splendidly preserved, gaily decorated clapboard houses have been pickled in aspic, and the Loyalists' descendants have managed to retain some of their old ways, adding a living-museum quality.
INAGUA NATIONAL PARK
If the rewards of standing in the midst of the Western Hemisphere's largest flock of flamingos weren't enough for bird watchers, Great Inagua's saline ponds also attract countless other water birds.
JOURNEYING BY MAIL BOAT
You may choose only to do it once, or it may become the only way you travel between the islands. but a journey by mail boat i one to remember forever. Far from cushy, this is down-to-earth travel guaranteed to show you a side of life far from the tourist mainstream, and it's sure to bond you to the Bahamian people.
FAMILY ISLAND REGATTA
Put yourself in a party mood and fly down to Great Exuma for the best time time in the islands. This traditional sailing regatta pits local skippers against each other, while onshore the crowds whoop it up in a four-day party.
This is the "in" spot of the moment. Besides the charming historic village of Dunsmore Town, "Briland' boasts a stunning pink-sand beach, great nightspots, and a choice range of accommodations, including Pink Sands, a most favorite spot to lay your head in the entire Bahamian chain.
Fisher-folk claim that wrestling a big one from the 'great blue river' is a tip-top thrill. If you can stomach it, your fishing options are legion. Or for smaller yet no less challenging fry, try your hand at bone fishing; adherents swear that even great sex can't compare, but we think they need to go out more often!
SWIMMING WITH SHARKS
Wowie!! You can go swimming with sharks while they feed at several locales. At Stella Maris and at Walker's Cay, you can witness a feeding frenzy just a few feet away. At Freeport and Nassau, the sharks are hand-fed by a diver clad in chain mail. It is definitely not for the timid!
Pay one visit to this brazenly colorful, unpretentious gem, west of Nassau, a sibling to Pink Sands in Harbor Island, and you will understand why many end their vacation to the Bahamas at this spot.
If you like The Bahamas, you'll LOVE Cuba, a one-hour flight away from Nassau. Several tour companies offer single to multi-day excursions to this fascinating and friendly island of sensual charms. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised!
Jobs in the Bahamas
Generally non-citizens may not work within The Bahamas. There are exceptions for those having skills not available from a Bahamian. The employer must show proof of exhaustive searching for a suitable Bahamian prior to applying for a work permit for the foreign candidate. Now there are many instances wherein the requirements are prerequisites determined by the employer based upon the candidate they have in mind already. To say it simply if someone wants you to work down here they will write the classified help wanted ad to demonstrate that only YOU could possibly fill the position. Many Bahamians having received higher education from Universities in foreign nations seek higher paid positions in other countries rather than their own.
However any ordinary position not requiring specialized skills will not readily qualify as an employment opportunity for a foreigner. For instance should a foreign national apply for a position as a maid they most certainly would be denied the application. There are no specialized skills, experience or higher education required to perform the associated duties and therefore many suitable candidates of Bahamian origin can be obtained from local advertising of the offered position.
The lack of four (4) year colleges (and beyond) within The Commonwealth of The Bahamas renders many citizens unable to obtain the furtherance in education necessary to fill positions mandating Bachelors and Masters degrees. The citizens who can afford to go abroad to further their education or those that receive scholarships are the minority of the overall population.
There are also privileged areas of employment wherein only nationals may fill the positions with few, if any, exceptions. The normal exceptions will be those that allow for educating Bahamians to the job skills associated with the position. Once a qualified replacement has been trained they should then take on the duty of further educating the population needed to surmount the demand in the job market.
Another particular that has changed over the past recent years is that it is now the responsibility of the employer to sponsor the work permit of the non-Bahamian applicant. Moreover the applicant may not be on Bahamian soil at time of submission of application for employment. In years past a foreigner might make application on his own for a work permit in a specific field and then seek a position. No longer is this allowed. The employer must first demonstrate that it has failed to yield a local Bahamian applicant despite all reasonable efforts. Therefore foreigners may not make a general application to the government for a work permit should he/she be unsponsored by an employer for a particular position.
Work permits can be costly and are assessed based on the value of skills. The field of teaching is an area of need and many teachers enter on work permits. The employers are not likely to readily contract with unnecessary foreigners as a work force as they must post a bond ensuring that the expenses of removing the non-Bahamian from the country are covered as well as any incidental damages the employee might incur indebting himself to the government for items such as medical care. The bond will need to be adequate to cover the employee's dependents as well. There is good cause to mandate a bond. Should an expatriate become seriously ill as a working resident he or she might become a burden to the government and detour resources from the citizens who are rightfully in need of such services. Therefore the employer should be bound to provide sufficient medical insurance benefits. Should the expatriate not have the moneys to move off of Commonwealth islands following termination of either work permit or employment he or she might further deplete the resources rightfully due the citizens.
Residency without the right to work may be gained both annually and permanently with an adequate real estate investment. An investment in real property is necessary to be considered for annual residency and investments over $500,000.00 for permanent residency.
To obtain an annual residency card you must make application to Immigrations, you will need to present evidence of financial independence (hence you do not need to produce an income to survive - mandatory); be prepared to submit signed letters from your local Bahamian bank of your average amount of deposits on hand, you must present proof of good and upstanding character. This can be presented in form of personal recommendations from judges, politicians, government officials as well as clergy and charity organization leaders who know you and can make a positive declaration on your behalf. You will also need to submit a police certificate evidencing that you have a clean criminal or arrest record and are considered an upstanding citizen in your local community (your local law enforcement department will understand the nature of your request when you present it to them) You will need to submit two passport photos with your application and a $25 fee for processing (non-refundable). You will be interviewed and if meeting acceptance upon approval you will need to pay $500 for annual residence, which can include your spouse and dependents. You will not be granted residency under these circumstances unless you are a homeowner or investor or spouse of a citizen.
Permanent Residency requires much of the same but furthers the financial information required to speak for itself that not now or in the foreseeable future would you require a position to receive income to continue your residency here.